How do you reconcile your definition of self (as the whole human) with the Buddhist concept of no-self?

It’s easy. It’s just a matter of the the level of aggregation or level of organization of matter. Organic life forms are composed of inorganic compounds. In the same way, the personal virtual self (the “I”) dialogue feels alive and real, but when a practitioner watches and listens to it run, the practitioner can see the individual sounds or images in the string of internal selfing are absent of personal characteristics.

The dots on the wall are just dots on the wall until you step back and see the pattern of the painting! Level of organization or level of aggregation matters.

We human beings live at the level of the whole heart, body, and mind, where each part (no matter how it is defined) is a apart of, not apart from, but not the whole of the whole self. So for me it is always important to return to this experience of the whole as the ultimate ‘reality’ for day to day living.

So, at this point in practice, this brain (impersonal voice) understands the impersonality and not-self characteristics of the components of subjective experience, and I (personal voice) also experience ‘being’ and ‘self,’ feeling they are ‘real,’ all the while also knowing that they are very useful constructs of the mind that represent but are not the whole.

Whew! But, what can i say? That’s how it is for me right now. Hard to describe. Easy to live with.


This blog rolls out ideas, practices, and techniques that may help reduce suffering and increase happiness, for your whole self and others.  Suggestion:  Go to the first post on Dec 2, 2011 and scroll up to follow the presentation.  Welcome!

What is your daily practice routine like?

That’s a challenging question because my practices have been and are so eclectic. However, it usual starts out lying down in bed in the morning while waking up. Yup, I found out I don’t need to sit so I dropped that. I’ll do ‘morning in bed’ practice for about an hour or so.

I’ll frequently start with mindfulness of body sensations, sweeping attention up and down the body from head to toe with an open and non-judgmental awareness.

Almost always, some tension, thought stream or image stream will pop up and grab attention. Sometimes they are negative feelings associated with daily life issues, aka, “ordinary suffering.”

Then I start running through the four voices. What do we feel and think about this? What does the body, heart and mind think about this situation? What else is going on with the body heart and mind? What does impersonal thinking observe?

Then the lead conscious part (the committee chair) pursues a conversation with the thoughts and images that are at issue. In the way you would converse with a friend. Using any conversational technique, idea, or technique that you would use with a friend to help them out.

By allowing my ‘parts’ to have recognition and an independent seat at the table of consciousness, a part of me (or you!) can lead these other parts to change. And it has been incredibly helpful to be able to do this.

Yes, Virginia, you can “do therapy” on yourself!

For safety, health, and sanity, by your original intention, always return to the personal, primary “I” voice.

Another key aspect of daily routine is that my ‘default mode’ is now whole body awareness of sensations, sometimes by sweeping, though now mostly as an always-on gestalt.

This is combined with the personal voice (primary) for both internal and external experience, with switching into and out of the other voices on an as helpful or needed basis.

What are the “two silences” practices?

Stopping or letting internal dialogue drop, aka “maintaining radio silence,” is the first silence practice.

One doorway is to set the intention mentally, with the inner agreement that the personal voice will return. This way inner dialogue representing the “I” self is not threatened. Slow down the pace of the inner dialogue…use a softer voice..let gaps appears…and let it rest. Just setting the intention will also allow it to happen. It does not have to be hard forced. As internal dialogue disappears, experience the silence. Eventually, return to the personal (I) voice.

The second silence practice is allowing or encouraging below conscious awareness mental activity to slow down or stop.

How? When below conscious mental activity subsides, eyeball movement subsides.

So, bringing eyeball movement to a rest is a doorway into this state. Allow your eyeballs to rest comfortable…with less..and less…and less movement. Until they aren’t moving.

Also, there is a very dependable indicator that accompanies this mental rest. There is a consciously noticeable “wave of settling” in muscle activity. Moreover, there is almost no twitching, muscle tension, or desire for movement…all without any forced effort.

Another dependable doorway to silence is to let the jaw drop or relax.

Put these silence practices together, while maintaining alert awareness of the five basic sensory “live feeds” and you have a recipe for interesting experiences!

These are doorways into whole body experiences of joy and pleasure.

What is the Four Voices practice?

The Four Voices practice is done when a practitioner consciously and awarely switches the pronouns in the internal and external self talk dialogue.

The Personal Voice is sustained and maintained by the pronoun “I.” As in: “I think and feel, therefore I am.”

The Committee Voice is sustained and maintained by substituting the pronoun “we” for “I.” As in: “We think and feel therefore we are.”

The Witness Voice is sustained and maintained by substituting a noun for a pronoun. As in: “What is this body-mind experiencing?” Or, “what is [insert name] experiencing?”

The Impersonal Voice is sustained and maintained by dropping all personal pronouns and nouns. It is the stream of internal and external talking without the use of any personal references.

The practice is to explore the inner world by consciously switching between voices, always returning to the personal voice and the end for good ecology and equilibrium.

What is the origin and use of the phrase “apart of, not apart from, not the whole” of the self?

Meditation teachers will typically say something like, “if you can observe a thought or feeling, you know it is not you.”

One day, while mindfully observing the arising and passing away of word and image thoughts, observing them attentively without adding to them, another thought popped into my head:

“That observation is imperfect. If this brain is observing thoughts and feelings, this brain knows that those thoughts and feelings are a part of, not apart from, but not the whole of me. The real ‘me’ is every single cell from head to toe, considered, understood and experienced as a whole.”

These are three common characteristics of all subjective human experiences.

What is the most pragmatic definition of the word “self?”

Definitions matter.

Experience has shown me that the word “self” is most pragmatically defined as the whole of the body, heart, and mind, from head to toe, every cell included, every system running, every conscious and unconscious process, operating as a complete human being.

What goes on in the head is the creation of a “virtual self.” The internal word narrative in the brain, the images of memory and imagination, the sensations of emotions, are the brain’s creation of a virtual self to represent the whole self.

Even though it feels solid, it is not actually the whole self from head to toe. It is a representation. It is a apart of, not apart from, and not the whole. The whole is the complete body, heart, and mind.

The “unit of human existence” in this universe is the whole of the body, heart, and mind, not just anyone of its many parts.


Why this ‘Pragmatic Practitioner’ blog?

‘Pragmatic’ because the focus for this live human being is on what works.  ‘Practitioner’ because it is a good word to capture the very wide range of ideas, techniques, practices, and values that I have used to reduce suffering and increase happiness for self and others.  And, very importantly, because as a ‘practitioner,’ I’m not identifying with any one school, technique, religion, tradition, or group of practices.

All practices and techniques can be understood as voluntary, self-directed efforts at personal change.  All have been learned from someone else, and along the way I’ve added a few twists which perhaps you may find helpful.

I’ve recovered from addiction through a twelfth step program, studied and practiced NLP, and in recent years pursued a wide variety of meditative practices including mindfulness, vipassana, and concentration.

I try the techniques, assess the effects in my own inner experience and outer behavior, and then draw my own maps.  This blog documents the results of this work.